Friday, July 28, 2017
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (Jon Watts, 2017)
Although Peter Parker (Tom Holland) tries to balance life as a high school student and a superhero in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, naturally he’s drawn more to fighting crime and being a beloved part of the community. To his frustration, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) cautions him about getting too involved in such extracurricular activities, although he does provide him with an improved suit. After a night patrolling the neighborhood, Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) learns that he is Spider-Man, a fact that delights him to no end.
Peter stumbles upon the shady dealings of Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a former salvager now using and dealing alien technology to enrich himself and his associates. While Tony doesn’t want Peter to pursue the matter, he can’t help but investigate, which puts him and and his classmates at risk.
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING brings more of the traditional comic book sensibility back to the superhero universe. Director Jon Watts, one of six credited screenwriters, constructs the film like a teen movie with some regular people possessing extraordinary powers than something rooted in the realm of fantasy. Doing so grounds SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING and gives it a touch of wonder at the incredible feats the heroes and villains perform. Watts also suffuses this SPIDER-MAN with a breezier tone that gooses the humor, particularly in the scenes with Peter’s high school peers, and makes the protagonist and his struggles more down to earth.
Holland exudes a lot of charm in his first time playing the ordinary teenager turned webslinger. He imparts Peter with infectious enthusiasm, which he tempers with the insecurity and desire to push limits that are a hallmark of adolescence. He is confident scrambling up the Washington Monument but less sure of himself when it comes to asking his academic decathlon teammate Liz (Laura Harrier) to the dance. Holland lends a dancer’s grace to the physicality with which he plays Peter and Spider-Man, which reinforces the joy that buzzes through the film.
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING surrounds Peter with a splendid supporting cast. Batalon is funny and endearing as the pal who is excited for Peter and at the prospect that he might be able to be his assistant, the proverbial guy in the room in action movies. As wisecracking classmate Michelle, Zendaya often gets some of the biggest laughs from the withering way she expresses herself. Harrier adds depth to the potentially thankless love interest role as she evokes the complexities in the romance Liz and Peter hesitantly begin.
Keaton fleshes out the antagonist so that his perspective is understandable even if it isn’t justifiable. Adrian’s bruised sense of fairness and need to provide for his family guides him down a darker path that gradually eases him down the moral slippery slope. Keaton lets the character cook in his righteous outrage, like a frog not realizing it’s being boiled as the temperature in the pot slowly increases. For Adrian the outcome is similar as his corruption he gives in to slowly grows.
It doesn’t seem like there are a zillion different things happening in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING or that it absolutely has to fit within a larger framework of the Marvel films. The less convoluted story allows the film to feel fleeter and dig into the character elements. After a string of unsatisfactory SPIDER-MAN movies, it’s a pleasure to encounter one notable for its zippy sense of fun, humor, and thrills.